Monthly Archives: November 2011

An offensive post: recipe for a white Hispanic man. Yes, this is sterotyping and discrimination, well deserved.

Ingredients for 1 white Hispanic man, 45 years of age:

1 fussy lady, 75 years of age
1 fractious adolescent male, 12-17 years of age
1 mold, man size and shape


Put both ingredients in blender; blend until the mixture is even and smooth. Pour into mold; bake until done. As soon as he cools and stands up, the white Hispanic man will demand a great deal of care and will also initiate a great deal of high school style intrigue.

Take quinine and wear a body condom, because this creature will do whatever he can to force you into a maternal role.



Filed under Da Whiteman

On not committing

When I took my PhD exam I was concerned about passing so I gave it all I had. The committee was impressed, saying they had known I was competent but not that I was good, because I had always been so noncommittal about everything.

That, of course, was because I had always been told it would be silly to commit since I would probably fail. (This was in part an effort not to pressure me to succeed, I recognize.)

I would like to look at some of the old attitudes I had; why I was noncommittal, what I didn’t think I could commit to or would commit to me, what I really did commit to or want to commit to, why one was not supposed to. The story for today was of myself as a freshman.


I had college paid for by my aunt and was living on $150 a month. Many others were living on about that little. Others, with higher standards of living, had been “cut off” to $200 a month and were working. Still others, the most fortunate of those I knew, had Financial Aid budgets of $300 a month.

So I was not living large but I was drawing from a small trust fund. I was spending as little as possible because it was to be used for other family purposes and I was the first. I also felt that it would be unfair of me to work, because others needed work and I did have food, or to apply for merit based scholarships, because others needed the money.


So I was caught between the need to save for the family and the obligation not to consume any other resources including the resource of a job. It was like being pinned against the wall, not able to really breathe or take the steps one must take to develop.

That was why graduate school was so good for me — having a job, having the freedom to join organizations, knowing by now I would probably pass my courses. It is also why after graduate school, I was ready to be free, make my own decisions, look about me and work for a while, then see what graduate or professional program I might want to go into.


But one was pressed to commit to work in the field one had studied, yet not to commit to it because one might not get work in it or be tenured or like it; and the “cool” people, the most successful people, evinced lack of belief in it.

All of this is a very odd story.



Filed under Banes

Russell Berman, Gerald Graff

Once again it turns out I am with or ahead of the times, not behind. This semester I was convinced to give up my claim that we need an articulated curriculum if students are to make satisfactory progress to degree, and to endorse the allegedly new, individualistic practice Gerald Graff called “courseocentrism” in an address to the MLA I missed.

But now there is this from Russell Berman:

It is a common practice in some social sciences for entering students to face an articulated set of required courses with clear benchmarks and learning goals.1 In contrast, in some literature fields, annual course offerings vary in accordance with individual faculty predilections.

1. That an articulated curriculum is not the norm in the literary humanities is discussed by Gerald Graff: “We still think of teaching in ways that are narrowly private and individualistic, as something we do in isolated classrooms, while knowing little about what our colleagues are doing in the next classroom or the next building” (728).

Works Cited

Graff, Gerald. “Presidential Address 2008: Courseocentrism.” PMLA 124.3 (2009): 727–44. Print.

I am not convinced by Berman’s four-year PhD plan, but that is a separate question.



Filed under What Is A Scholar?

Socialism, a U.S. export to Canada

From the Northern Gaijin: late 19th century farmers, pushed off land by banking practices, organize and radicalize in the United States and move to Canada. Their descendants are the NDP. This video is very interesting.


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Filed under Movement, News

Sources of Reeducation

As we know, if I watched television and went to church then I would understand the culture I live in and I would be better equipped to defend myself against it. Now I have discovered by chance another element in the education of our Reeducators:

See, we were raised on 1980s movies and sitcoms, and the “cold, unfeeling grownup who works too hard” was the villain in half of them. The whole point of these “body switching” comedies — where a kid winds up in the body of a grownup — was that the career-driven workaholic dad learned what life was really all about. The message was clear: If you work too hard, you’ll lose your soul.

The characters who worked their asses off were shown to be stiff prudes who come down on the lighthearted main character with an iron fist. Or maybe that person is the main character, but by the end they realize that the only way to truly enjoy life is to lighten up and embrace their inner child. They finally stand up and quit their grindstone job in a hail of applause, and live a life of stress free bliss.

So that was another reason why professional success was considered symptomatic of “dysfunction,” “being out of touch with yourself,” and so on. My degree of amazement increases more and more. Read the whole thing at



Filed under Banes

Occupy Oakland Livestream

This may not be up long but it is interesting.



Filed under Movement, News

Sobre los estudiantes

Not only do we teach more classes and do it in worse conditions than many, and have more fun in life — we also have more interesting students than almost anyone.

Student #1 had a father, recently deceased.

Professor Zero: What did he do in life?
Student: He was a coyote.

Student #2 had a grandmother, recently deceased. She lived in New Orleans, Louisiana and practiced voodoo. The family has tattoos of the loas. They have been here since the early 19th century at least.

Do you see why I say living here is not entirely like living in some other parts of the United States?



Filed under News

Leo en la nebulosa

In Portuguese today we read Pedro Kilkerry, who never published during his
lifetime but is now a famous writer, and Torquato Neto, whose poetry I had
not read before and which amazed me.

One of the students is new and I told her I was impressed with how much
progress she had made. You learned Portuguese! I said. Yes, said she, and
I learned another thing as well: immersion works.

That was my fourth class meeting today. After it I gave make-up exams to
desperate Spanish students and brainstormed a paper on Alejandro
Jodorowsky for two hours.

This experience brought to mind somehow an old poem whose first line
I used to like. It is hackneyed somehow, really, but we will recite it
nonetheless, for the sounds:

Leo en la nebulosa mi suerte cuando pasan las estrellas veloces y oscurísimas.
Rueda: plazo: zarpazo. ¡Salud, oh tigre viejo
del sol! Esta botella ¿nos dirá la verdad
antes que el vino salga volando por el éter? O te quemas
o te dejas cortar. Salud hasta la muerte,
Dylan Thomas: la estrella del alcohol nos alumbre
para ver que apostamos, y perdimos.
No estaba Dios. Corrimos demasiado veloces con la antorcha
quemada en nuestras manos
libérrimos y errantes por volar al origen.
-Mi padre jugó sucio,
dijo Kafka el testigo.
Mortal, mortal error
meter a nadie en esto de nacer: somos hambre.
Pero el fuego está abajo con los muertos que crecen todavía.
Somos hambre. Oigo voces y escribo sobre el viento sin hojas de mi tabla
de salvación. Ahí dejo temblando este cuchillo.
No hay cielo sino sangre, y únicamente sangre de mujer
donde leen su estrella los desnudos.
Y otra cosa es la muerte que nos para de golpe. ¿Dónde estamos?
Sólo entonces el beso: ¡te palpo, Eternidad!
¡Te oigo en la madre oscura cuando empiezan llorando las raíces!

Gonzalo Rojas


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Filed under Poetry

What Naomi Wolf says…

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.


Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.


So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war…

And it might not be the civil war you want, on the issues you want, and the government might win, but I think the only view is the long view, and I don’t think these people are silly.


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Filed under Movement, News

Dan La Botz

Ours would have to be a party with a different conception of government, far more democratic and participatory. A different government altogether, based on our communities, workplaces, and social centers. Ours would have to be a party prepared to reorganize the economy, to reshape the culture, to remold our values from below. Ours would have to be a party led—and led in the most democratic sense—by ordinary workers, by people of color, by women, gays and lesbians. Ours would have to be a party of immigrants, those with documents and the undocumented. Ours would have to be the party of real equality, not only political and social, but also economic equality. Ours would be the party that took power away from the 1% but also redistributed economic and political power among the rest of the highly unequal 99%. Could we build such a movement and such a political party? I think we can. In any case, we have no other choice than to try.


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